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Celebrate the King of Sweden’s Jubilee With the House of Bernadotte Family Tree

Posted by Sean Daly on Sep 11, 2023
Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte and a closeup of his military muster roll

On September 15, King Carl XVI Gustaf will celebrate 50 years on the throne of Sweden. To mark this event, genealogists and community members at Geneanet searched archives throughout France for a special surprise present: unseen documents about the King’s French ancestor, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte! Visit our tree to see these fascinating documents.

Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte was a larger-than-life figure whose biography reads like a fairytale. He escaped the quiet bourgeois life of his parents in a town in the southwest of France to become a soldier… and, as a man of exceptional courage and abilities, and despite no noble blood, he rose through the ranks during the Révolution and eventually became a Marshal under Napoléon. He married Napoléon’s ex-fiancée, Desideria Clary; he became Minister of War; he did not support Napoléon’s coup; at first Napoléon trusted him, but always recognized him as a rival. Bernadotte was to be sent to Louisiana as governor, then to Washington as ambassador; but fate had a different destiny in mind as Louisiana was sold, doubling the size of the United States. In 1810, he was elected heir to the aged King of Sweden by the parliament and initially supported Napoléon’s policies, but when Napoléon invaded Sweden’s holdings in Pomerania, in the clash of interests Bernadotte chose his adopted country and joined the coalition against the Emperor. Upon the death of Karl XIII in 1818, Bernadotte became King Karl XIV Johan, and founded the House of Bernadotte, Sweden’s royal family!

A surprise present

At Geneanet, we thought it would be fitting to honor King Gustaf this week with a family tree of his ancestors. However, beyond the dates and places of births, marriages, and deaths, we thought our expertise in French genealogy could unearth new documents about his French roots… and we were right!

Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte joined the army as a simple soldier at age 17, N°399 in the muster roll… and rose to the rank of Marshal! During his long military career, Bernadotte was appreciated by civilian populations for the strict discipline of his troops, and he took great interest in military hospitals for the wounded.
Bernadotte’s wife Desideria was formerly the fiancée of Napoléon Bonaparte; Napoléon’s brother married Desideria’s sister. Four members of the Bonaparte family signed Bernadotte and Desideria’s marriage contract! Desideria kept complete control of her finances and possessions, rare for the time.

Over the summer, genealogists at Geneanet and members of the Geneanet community scoured archives throughout France to present digital scans of fascinating documents from Bernadotte’s life. Some of these scans are new, and have not been previously published. We wish to thank the Geneanet community and the archivists of these repositories for their assistance in this project:

  • Archives Nationales, Paris
  • Archives Nationales, Pierreffite-sur-Seine
  • Archives du Services Historique de la Défense, Vincennes
  • Archives départementales des Hauts-de-Seine
  • Archives départementales des Pyrénées-Atlantiques
The Royal Family is pictured under a portrait of King Karl XIV Johan, formerly Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte. King Carl XVI Gustaf is the fourth great-grandson of the founder of the House of Bernadotte. Copyright Linda Broström/The Royal Court of Sweden

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1 comment


Amazing work by Geneanet researchers. I am from Louisiana and had not made the connection with him as governor. I find it interesting how a bourgeois with no noble blood could establish a Royal Family. Guess I have a lot still to learn! THanks for the story! Louis Medal.

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